Monday, December 12, 2011

Who is your best friend?

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about friendships. By that I mean that I've taken a back seat and looked at my friendships, evaluated their authenticity, and realized the ones that God blessed me with.

In high school I had a best friend who lived 10 minutes from via 4-wheeler. Our families had farms that were connected on backroads. I even rode my horse to her house a couple times. We played basketball together, went to football games, rode 4-wheelers, talked about hunting, got lost ALL THE TIME. Since both of us had grown up in the country, it was a natural friendship. I remember one night we even went out to a deer camp where some of our guy friends were staying just to give them cookies for their football game the next day. Yep, we were two peas in a pod! But we drifted apart throughout college, even though we had selected a college together. Even now we live in the same town again but rarely see each other as life just gets in the way. I think we'll always be friends, though, because we have such a history of friendship. She was the first person I spent time with this summer when I got home.
My high school BF and I at a good friend's wedding May 2011

In college my best friend was this super fun girl who made me laugh uncontrollably. We were both education majors but completely different. While she was from a small town as well, she loved the college life and her sorority. Me? I still went home every weekend to hang out on the farm. She was the free-loving hippy. I was the nerd. But that made our conversations so ridiculously funny. We prided ourselves in being the funniest duo that had ever set foot on the planet. One time we drove to Dallas for a friend's wedding, and the bride's mom came and got us off the dance floor to be bartenders. Okay, I don't really even know how to open a bottle of wine. It was a disaster. And it was really obnoxious that she had even asked this of us, but it was just the nature of our friendship to just roll with stuff and enjoy it. So what'd we do? My friend taught me how to open a bottle of wine, and by the end of the wedding the party was around the bar which happened to be in a different room.

This was right after we had just gotten back from Destin, Florida, where we had persuaded an entire comedy club that I grew up Amish, lost a friend one night after we had decided to go for a late night swim without the rest of the group, and then found the same friend on the side of the road wearing a sombrero. Life was always an adrenaline rush and a crazy, fun time when we were together. Of course we still talk regularly, but being in separate towns and different stages of life has made it almost impossible to spend much time together. I have to say, though, she brings out a side of me that no one else can. Every time I'm with her I feel like I'm being funny again...that I'm the Avery I love being. She just a secret key to my funny bone. And I still have a picture of the two of us as decor in my bathroom. That's big considering most frames got updated with pictures of Cash. Not my pic with her. Never!
My college BF and I summer 2010
Fast forward to the year I moved to Alma. Life seemed to spiral quickly as I was in a new town without friends or family and found myself in the middle of an engagement break-up. Not where I had exactly planned to be. But exactly where I needed to be.

I've talked before about the trials I've been through that made me so proud of where they had taken God is always protecting us. I learned at that point in my life how to fully depend on God. Often I feel like that's all I have left. I firmly believe that God allows us to go through those times so that we learn to trust, strengthen faith, and pursue Him with every ounce of our hearts.

Luckily for me, one of those times came for me in my 2nd year of teaching.

While I was trying to find a church home in Alma, I stumbled upon this little country church on the south side of town. Not realizing it at the time, I was walking into some of the deepest friendships my life would ever know. I made friends with a girl my age, but she and her husband were about to move to Little Rock to start professional school. While we are still great friends, it was her mother-in-law Dee Ann who became one of the closest people to me.

Actually, her MIL was the one who introduced us. Dee Ann and I worked together at the middle school and began a friendship that is so unique considering our age differences. Soon I started Bible studies in which Dee Ann was leading. She and her husband started inviting me to lunch with their family after services on Sunday mornings. And it was no time before I found myself with someone in their family all the time. They just became my family in Alma. Below is a picture of me with the 3 "Harris" girls before the Hillsong concert in November. I'd say this picture sums up who I've considered my family in Alma, especially since it's been Dee Ann's facebook picture since it was taken.

Malia (daughter), Leslie (daughter-in-law), Dee Ann, and me before the Hillsong concert
Dee Ann and I decided to start having breakfast together on Tuesday mornings, and for a year and a half we have gotten to know the morning Cracker Barrel staff. We love our breakfasts together, especially in the winter time when we get to sit by the fire.
I would have been a bridesmaid in her daughter's wedding this past summer had I not been in the Middle East. I have been to Little Rock several times to spend time with her son and daughter-in-law. I went to their family Christmas last year as it was a few days before the actualy holiday. And Dee Ann was the very first person (outside of my family) my mother called when my tragedy in the Middle East happened. I'm sure my mom would have done that anyway, but I had left her a list of numbers for "just in case." Besides Cash, Dee Ann's number was the only one on that list.

Talking to her and learning from her has become one of my very favorite things over the past few years. Since we work together, I have known I could just walk down to her office and get the best advice. She's been there on weekdays at work, Sundays at church, and Wednesday night services.

When my grandmother passed away last year, I was sitting in the back of the funeral parlor talking to my family. I looked over and saw Dee Ann walk in the door. I lost it. She knew I was speaking, and she came just to support me. I don't know any other friend (besides the Hub, of course) who reached out to me during that time nevertheless take off work to come support me.

Many people will ask if we have a mother/daughter relationship. I mean, I guess in a way...because I'm always learning from her. But we have a friendship that far exceeds age. She has been my best friend in this town. The person I turn to for everything from grad school to oven problems to student issues to moving. She just always knows what to say.

While we were realizing that life wouldn't always keep us in the same town considering my relationship is serious and 600 miles apart, it never occurred to us that we'd be separated so soon. Tonight it became official, though.

She was hired as the new assistant principal at the Alma Primary School. While she not only deserves this position, she's going to kick it's tail end. I couldn't be happier for her. She just passed National Boards, and now she got an amazing promotion.

Still my heart breaks, because she won't be there all day long. She'll have to be at work earlier, and our Tuesday morning breakfasts will be changed. I know that's selfish. I know. And as she tells me, I don't have room to talk...but I'm going to miss her like crazy.

I don't see our friendship dwindling. I just spent Friday night celebrating with her, her husband, son-in-law, daughter, and my own sweet momma. Then I spent Saturday morning wither her daughter and her daughter's new in-laws at my parents' farm. And yesterday I spent a couple hours eating lunch with her daughter. Tomorrow Dee Ann and I have our traditional breakfast. Yeah, I don't think our friendship is ending over a promotion. :)

It's just reality of how much I miss her...but it's also a testimony of how deep our friendship is. Authentic? To the core. Blessing from God? One of the biggest of my life.

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